The latest provisional birth data is out and the results are an ongoing decline in total births at all but the oldest ages (mostly 40+, which is barely any of the total babies).
I have no idea when I can get around to it in more detail but Gen X (my “generation”) beat the spread and had more babies than their initial TFR predicted, which is pretty interesting. Also cohort analysis shows some specific cohorts within Gen X and older-Millennial are having more higher-order births (3, 4, 5th, etc) than their fellow cohort-sisters.
So on the one hand a few small groups that someone eventually should look at more closely are having more children than expected. On the other hand, the big-picture of fertility is ongoing declines in baby-having at every stage of fertile-life.
So what is this ongoing decline in new life worth? What is it worth to the ever-shrinking pool of married parents? And what’s making a handful of people double down and have marginal additional children at all?
Give yourself a mom bonus if your kid(s) watch less than 8 hours of tv a day (this includes streaming video on a computer/tablet/smartphone, video games and regular television, etc.)
That’s the current average for American children. Teens bring it up by having an average of around 10 hours per day, but it’s not exactly low for non-school-age children either.
Before I had kids, I used to look around at the fatigued SAHMs and working mothers around me and I thought (if I thought about it at all) that a lot of the things they did were optional and not really necessary to the kid-raising life.
Well, I was wrong.
The Mom commute has a long history in American society, but it wasn’t as broadly required in the first half of the 20th century. And there were still ways to avoid the worst of it in the second half via carpooling and roping in still-available neighbors, relatives and friends. And also, for a short window of time, nannies. During peak working mother, around the late 1980s and early 1990s, the first wave of amnestied Hispanic women made a labor pool for domestic work that included doing a lot of the driving. And contrary to the story about them, during that window of time, the wages they were paid were decent and many received real benefits as well. Minimum wage was very low and so (for that brief window of time), paying twice minimum wage was hard, but not completely brutalizing the old finances and the freshly amnestied immigrants were happy to get comparatively generous wages for the work. Things changed with the dotcom era, of course, but a roughly ten year window of being able to pay generously for childcare and still have a lot of money left over distorted perspective later.
Anyway, while a bit of a digression, the point is that now in the 21st century, all the social bonds and stuff have corroded and the mom commute is pretty much a requirement for all moms, even pretty rural ones. It’s not even about the dreaded activities, it’s that getting your kids around other kids and getting them the educational resources they’re supposed to have, even if they’re public schooled involves a lot of commuting (even if you can pop them on the bus in theory).
This is a pretty major fertility shredder and it’s also a reason a lot of married households want two very comfortable cars. They also need them because the Mom Commute tends to not be in the same directions as the Work Commute. The schools and kid stuff are in one part of the city/metro area/county, but the jobs (including mom’s if she works outside the home too) tend to be somewhere else. That includes teachers, who used to be able to easily work in the district their kids were in and now rarely can.
Giving up the Mom Commute really does mean for most married mothers agreeing to a truly astonishing level of isolation and dependence on mass media and social media for themselves and their children and hard limits on physical activity as well. But you never really hear about it, even though that much driving is health-damaging and poorly compatible with keeping the old figure in tiptop shape.